Long piece from Greenwire today, below….
Two points on Wyden’s bill.
“(H) to harvest wood and use the value of merchantable sawlogs and biomass to help
offset the cost of improving forest health and watershed health;”
Great, but that ought to be standard operating procedure, nationwide.
“(1) OLDER TREES- Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary shall prohibit the
cutting or removal of any live tree located in the covered area that is 150 years of age or
older measured at breast height.”
Any age- or diameter-based cutting restriction is problematic. There ought to be some flexibility. At least, more that in the aforementioned paragraph (2):
(2) ADMINISTRATIVE EXCEPTIONS-
“(A) IN GENERAL- The prohibition described in paragraph (1) shall not apply if the
Secretary determines that there is no reasonable alternative to the cutting or
removal of the tree to provide for a safe administrative, public, or special use.”
If you want to restore an stand of 300-year-old ponderosa by reducing basal area in the stand, and you need to cut 150-year-old grand fir or Doug-fir, that would be illegal. For example.
Onthe other hand, this is an improvement over earlier versions of the bill, which would have prohibited cutting trees over 21 inches in diameter.
Republicans, enviros air concerns over ENR panel markup of forestry bills
In the end, the 10 bills dealing with logging, wilderness and recreation on public lands in states including Oregon, Montana and Nevada are expected to pass — but not without some controversy (E&E Daily, Dec. 16)
Two bills by committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to prescribe logging and restoration on national forests in their states are expected to stir debate.
Republicans support more logging activity on national forests, but they have concerns over legislating place-based projects, favoring a national logging bill instead, said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Meanwhile, a bloc of environmentalists that had generally supported Wyden’s S. 1301, which seeks to restore forests on Oregon’s east side, has withdrawn its support, saying an amended version cuts important safeguards for old-growth trees and assurances for the decommissioning of roads.
Other environmentalists and former federal lands officials are opposing S. 404, a bill by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to exempt a historic lookout cabin in Washington state from the Wilderness Act. Other conservation groups support the bill.
The controversy is not unexpected.
Both Wyden and Murkowski earlier this year said they would dispense with the least controversial bills first, saving the thorny policy battles for later. They’ve managed to negotiate tough compromises on bills to promote motorized recreation on a North Carolina seashore and to streamline grazing on public lands, among other measures.
A big question is whether the committee will pass today’s bills by voice vote, as they have in the past.
Dillon said some senators from forested states are worried that time will run out this Congress to push a national forestry bill.
“We have a lot of Western states that have issues with the Forest Service not cutting,” he said. “We have some individual state solutions, but not really a national solution.”
Much scrutiny will fall on Tester’s S. 37, a bill backed by loggers, sportsmen and conservationists in the Treasure State that has been stalled in Congress since 2009. Today is its first-ever vote.
A substitute amendment with slight tweaks will be offered.
A handful of environmental groups yesterday said they oppose a substitute amendment to Wyden’s east-side Oregon forestry bill, after largely supporting the original bill the committee reviewed in July.
“This legislation will cause unacceptable and irreparable damage to forests in eastern Oregon, will degrade water quality, harm endangered species, and undermine our environmental laws,” said a letter to Wyden from Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Geos Institute and the Larch Co. “Furthermore this bill will set a dangerous precedent for our other federal forests. We oppose it.”
While the revised bill dropped some language on National Environmental Policy Act reviews that environmental groups had opposed, it also weakened protections for old-growth trees and lost specificity on other resource protections, the groups claimed.
“It went from legislating old-growth protection to mandating old-growth logging,” said Andy Kerr, of the Larch Co., who is a lobbyist for environmental groups.
But timber interests don’t appear thrilled with the revised east-side bill, either.
Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland, said at first blush, the bill still appears too cumbersome to implement and seems to put ecological restoration ahead of social and economic needs.
While the revised bill drops language that AFRC warned would favor certain national forests over others, it would still encumber projects already underway in eastern Oregon. Moreover, a place-based bill is unfair for other regions of the West, Partin said, echoing Republicans on the committee.
“The House has passed a comprehensive bill, and the Senate has made lots of noise about a national bill but hasn’t taken any action,” he said.
Opposition to the bill comes as Wyden is shopping a larger forestry bill on Oregon’s western forests, known as the O&C lands.
Environmental groups are split on that bill, as are prominent logging officials and county commissioners.
A separate group of environmentalists and former federal lands officials also registered opposition to Murray’s bill, warning it would set a bad precedent for wilderness protections nationwide.
The bill, which is endorsed by historical preservationists, local town councils and some conservation groups, including the Wilderness Society, would exempt the 1933 Green Mountain Lookout in a wilderness area in Washington’s North Cascades from a federal judge’s order that it be removed.
“Enactment of this legislation would have significant ramifications for the present and future integrity of Wilderness,” said a letter to Wyden signed by the leaders of Wilderness Watch, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and the Western Lands Project, in addition to former heads of the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club.
“Enactment of the legislation would encourage federal land managers to flout the laws Congress has enacted to guide management of public lands,” they wrote.
The lookout — according to a federal judge — was repaired illegally in a designated wilderness, where permanent structures and motorized equipment are prohibited.
Bill proponents say the lookout is important to the history of the Pacific Northwest and is a popular destination for hikers, particularly since it is only a few miles from the wilderness boundary.
The bill enjoys strong bipartisan support.
Its House companion, H.R. 908, passed the Natural Resources Committee in July by unanimous consent.
29 thoughts on “Concerns over Wyden, Tester bills”
RE: Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S 37)
The Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign is a Montana-based coalition of conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, forest restoration and the sound long-term management of our public lands. Our coalition includes 5th generation Montanans, small-business owners, veterans, retired Forest Service district rangers and biologists, backpackers, hunters and anglers, outfitters, scientists and community leaders.
Our Coalition supports forest and watershed restoration, protecting our roadless wildlands and sustainable jobs in the woods. Therefore, the issue before this committee is not what the drafters of S 37 intended to do; rather the issue before you is what this bill, as written, would do.
Our Coalition believes that, despite the best intentions of Senator Tester, S 37 represents a serious threat to America’s public lands legacy. The mandated logging provisions are unprecedented and represent an unscientific override of current forest planning. The notion that Congress should legislate logging levels on public lands is antithetical to the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and irresponsible given that lumber consumption in America has dropped significantly.
The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S 37) contains several major precedent-setting provisions detrimental to America’s national public lands legacy.
The bill would localize the management of America’s National Forests opening the flood gates for politicians to simply mandate logging, mining, grazing, fracking, drilling and road building for National Forest and federal public lands elsewhere. This could fragment and balkanize the entire National Forest system and ignores the basic principle that national public lands belong equally to all Americans.
Even former Montana Congressman Pat Williams has gone on record opposed to the concept of mandated logging in Tester’s bill:
“If there’s any reason that the Tester bill has not moved along better than it has, it’s because of its mandates that there not only be logging, but that certain amounts of timber be extracted. Conservation-minded Senators are very hesitant to vote for that, even though they recognize the Montana wilderness dilemma. They don’t want to set a precedent for other bills to do the same thing….I do worry about the mandate of it. If I was in the Congress, and all this time had gone by without success on designating new wilderness, I would try to amend the Tester bill in one way or other,” said Former Montana Congressman Pat Williams.
As S 37 is currently written it contains several provisions that abrogate the Wilderness Act by allowing non-conforming uses. It also releases – and opens for logging, motorized recreation and development – 76,000 acres that are currently protected as “Wilderness Study Areas.”
The numerous unfunded mandates included in S 37 could cost US taxpayers well over $100 million and raises the very real potential for other National Forests to have their funds raided and transferred to fulfill the mandates contained in S 37.
While supporters of the bill complain of “gridlock” between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service’s Northern Region sold enough timber sales in Montana and N. Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up, would stretch for 2,048 miles.
Supporters of the bill may tell you that 70% of Montanans support S 37. However, you should know there has never been one single independent state-wide opinion poll conducted about the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. The polls supporters of S 37 refer to were actually paid for, written and commissioned by supporters of the bill and were designed to produce a desired outcome.
As the Great Falls Tribune reported this weekend:
Make no mistake, the exclusive, self-selective process used to develop S 37, particularly on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, has engendered more distrust and hard feelings than anything we’ve witnessed in Montana. Members of our Coalition, and a large segment of the public, have felt excluded, disenfranchised and ignored throughout the entire process. Basically, if you didn’t agree with the radical notion that members of Congress should start mandating logging and resource extraction levels on public lands your views weren’t welcomed.
For these and other reasons, over 50 forest and wilderness organizations around the country – including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) – either oppose, or have expressed serious concerns with, Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, S 37 the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.
Again, while our Coalition supports forest restoration, Wilderness and sustainable jobs in the woods, Congress doesn’t need to mandate large increases in logging and throw science-based planning and management of America’s National Forests out the window to support these goals. Thank you.
“…150 years of age or older measured at breast height”
I didn’t remember this from my 36-years-ago forest mensuration class, so had to google it, still a little unclear…. Increment borer? (seems kind of invasive) Or, age estimated from dbh plus tables of mean growth increment? Just curious, thanks.
Measurement practices say to use an increment borer at dbh, then adding 4-6 years on that. Size and age aren’t consistent with each other, due to many factors. Rather than using increment borers, it would be easier to supply written justification for cutting trees over certain sizes, instead. A 24″ 160 year old tree, loaded with mistletoe, could be a good target to cut. What about an 80 year old tree that is 24″? It is likely to get cut, if there are larger “sacred” fir trees surrounding it. We should not be cutting highly vigorous trees, which are large for their young age. I think it would be easy to keep a cruise book with you, to document why you cut every tree above 21″, and make a sale summary available to the public, in the spirit of full transparency. Those decisions could be verified easily, in each cutting unit.
Larry, As a old timey timber marker, I kept nodding my head in agreement till I got to the last couple of sentences. Have each timber marker keep a log book explaining his decision to cut each tree over 21″DBH (or whatever). Are you serious? Next step. Tag and number each oversize tree so “concerned citizen” can second-guess the marker’s judgement and bring suit over the 13 trees in Unit 2 that were “arbitrarily and capriciously designated for cutting”.
—– Sorry, I just realized that you were indulging in a bit of sarcasm. (I’m getting a little slow on the uptake in my dotage.)
Actually, that “Big Tree Diary” (and the strict guidelines) would be an easier process than aging each tree with an increment borer. It would also be more productive than just eliminating the cutting of ALL trees over 21″ dbh, as it is now. For once, I was holding my sarcasm in check. It would be a small price to pay in exchange for getting people out into the woods, to see that we are “walking the walk”. In eastern Oregon, the number of oversized trees you would be justifying harvest on would be pretty small, with maybe less than 10 per cutting unit. Such trees would be numbered, flagged and mapped (approximately).
I would also use this rationale to justify marking trees over 30″ dbh, within the Sierra Nevada. Indeed, sometimes you cannot reduce basal area down to what is desired because there are too many over 30″ diameter trees, too close together. What is even worse is that you sometimes have to favor a cankered white fir, over a vigorous younger sugar pine, at 28″ diameter. Currently, where I live, once a tree gets to 30″ dbh, it becomes “sacred”, never to be cut, ever.
Some people aren’t willing to trust that the Forest Service will cut big trees, whenever they need to be cut. This process would work fast, in practice but, could temporary employees be able to do it? It could be taught, with a brand new certification, that makes sure timber markers know the applicable silviculture.
S. 340 for Sealaska was probably a factor in passage of all the bills. It is deader than a doornail, largely because of vociferous opposition http://tongasslowdown.org/TL/action.html
One of my concerns regarding Senator Tester’s bill has to do with the suitable acres for timber harvest. Several years ago I was given a draft of the bill to review and noticed that on the maps the areas marked for timber harvest included the portions of inventoried roadless areas that in the 1987 Kootenai Forest Plan were included in the suitable timber harvest base. When I questioned this I was told basically that it was a non-issue since the focus for harvest would be in less controversial areas like within the WUI. My concern is that if those areas are still included in the bill, while not desirable to enter at the present time, they might be after a wildfire or beetle infestation. And if those areas are still included and the bill passes how does that mesh with the Clinton Roadless Rule? If I remember right the roadless rule included provisions for emergency harvest in IRA’s close to private lands, but no permanent roads can be built. I’m hoping someone with more knowledge of the current bill can enlighten me.
Randy, Thanks for bringing up these concerns, which many conservationists and Wilderness advocates in Montana also share. As anyone can clearly see from this map of Tester’s mandated logging bill, the yellow areas are designated in Tester’s mandated logging bill as “Timber suitable and open to harvest.” The yellow “Timber suitable and open to harvest” areas on just the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest include over 1 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas, and as you correctly point out, also include Inventoried Roadless Areas on the Kootenai National Forest.
They use helicopters to salvage log in Roadless Areas, permitted by Rule. I have worked on such projects, in the past. Sometimes, temporary road spurs are used to landing sites, then removed and subsoiled, when work is completed.
I just wanted to quibble with the phrase “timber interests” used in the article: AFRC represents small mill operators, who have very different interests from, say, large landholders. (the latter oppose increased logging on O&C lands–because that would dillute the price ue of other timber!)
Conor: I agree. Too many people use “timber industry” in far too broad a sense. Big Business timber loves the spotted owl and supports the enviros however they can; the smaller companies, families, and their communities are what have been hurt by these actions. The Enviros can’t seem to tell (or, more likely, could care less) about the differences.
Diameter limits are working quite well in eastern Oregon – building public trust, drawing people into collaboratives. And that trust is paying dividends in the form of tentative moves toward compromise on exceptions to the diameter limits. The agency is showing willingness to protect old trees even if they are smaller than the diameter limit, and conservation groups are showing willingness to allow removal of some trees larger than the diameter limit, when necessary for restoration goals, such as “young” white fir when they are in direct competition with even larger Ponderosa pine trees.
Steve’s suggestion about needing flexibility to remove 150 year old trees from under 300 year old trees does not make sense to me. I have never seen that situation. Those trees have co-existed for more than 100 years. Some mortality within trees of that class would be great additions to the snag/down wood population. It might make sense to remove small young in-growth, but not 150 year olds.
Small old trees are cut all the time, and no one seems to care about that. Cutting the ladder fuels not only reduces crown fires but, also enhances vigor and resilience. What is more important is saving the crown coverage, through adjusting species compositions, tree densities and installing fuelbreaks. Diversity can be retained with clumps and gaps in the forest structure. The “whatever happens” strategy, so loved by preservationists, has led to poor forest conditions in many parts of eastern Oregon. Remember, lodgepoles rarely live to be 150 years old, too. If you know what you are looking at, you can often see pairs of pines that are exactly the same age but, one is very large, and the other one is surprisingly small. The large pine would benefit from the smaller one being cut.
Larry, You might need to update your thinking about small old trees. In Oregon and Washington there is a growing recognition that small old trees are ecologically important. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson’s recent field guide for dry forest restoration says about small old trees …
Franklin, J.F., Johnson, K.N., et al 2013. Restoration of Dry Forests in Eastern Oregon – A Field Guide. The Nature Conservancy, Portland, OR. 202 pp. http://nature.ly/dryforests [See Box 8 starting on page 112]
Another study supports the retention of slow growing old trees because they are relatively more resilient. The study found that slower-growing older trees tend to channel their energy into structural support and defense compounds to “maximize durability while minimizing … damage”. Black, Colbert, & Pederson. 2008. Relationship between radial growth rates and lifespan within North American tree species. Ecoscience 15(3), 349-357 (2008). http://fate.nmfs.noaa.gov/documents/Publications/Black_et_al_2008_Ecoscience.pdf. See also. Tobias Züst, Bindu Joseph, Kentaro K. Shimizu, Daniel J. Kliebenstein and Lindsay A. Turnbull, Using knockout mutants to reveal the growth costs of defensive traits, in: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2011, Jan. 26, doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2475.
Diameter limits are not working at all in eastern Oregon, 2nd Law, and you seem to be mistaken about almost everything else you’ve written in this comment as well. I can see why you use a pseudonym.
Bob, Seems like you have an opinion about diameter limits specific to Eastern Oregon and so does 2nd Law. When 2nd Law writes some honest opinions about diameter limits in Eastern OR, such as those re-posted below, I fail to see how those opinions warrant the type of response you just gave. Seems like 2nd Law has some current working experience with diameter limits specifically in Eastern OR and his opinions come across – to me anyway – as completely reasonable, evening showing how the environmental community is willing to compromise.
I explained some examples of why diameter limits handcuff foresters into less than desirable decisions. Yes, I agree that diameter limits make good guidelines, as long as there are strictly-controlled allowances for marker discretion. I do like the idea of a “Big Tree Diary”, maybe in the back of each cruise book. Since there are a limited amount of reasons to cut an oversized tree, a marker wouldn’t have to think too much, for a silvicultural reason. Most of those reasons would only be valid when a stand is overstocked with large trees, already. The other option would be to leave the entire clump, avoiding like it was an archaeological site. The additional timber volume wouldn’t be expected to be significantly increased.
Some people want the Forest Service to have the least amount of discretion, as possible, believing that discretion equals “weakened environmental protections”.
Hi Matt: Maybe you are right and I was being a little too blunt and cryptic. As you know from past discussions I have a hard time responding to anonymous commenters and usually don’t do so as a result — the exception being those, of course, who have explained why they are being anonymous, or those that don’t attempt to use their anonymity to infer expertise. If you are truly knowledgeable about a topic, then state why. If you have strong opinions on something, then at least have the huevos to back them up with your own name — as you and I both do, and as most of the posters and commenters on this blog also do. If you’re not going to have enough strength of conviction of your ideas to back them up with an actual identity, then why shoulod anyone else take them seriously, either?
Statements such as “conservation groups are showing willingness to allow removal of some trees larger than the diameter limit” are both arrogant and condescending. If he is an official speaker for such groups, then he should have an identity; if he thinks that it is up to his unidentified groups to “allow” active management of any type — never mind the qualifying statements that follow — then he has a very debatable concept of how our national resources should be managed. And I strongly disagree. In my opinion.
Mr. Z: Thanks for your input. Your arguments are so compelling I might just have to rethink everything I know.
Thanks, 2nd Law: I think the experience would be beneficial. First, I’d suggest thinking about why you need to use a pseudonym to express your opinions. Or why people should pay attention to them otherwise. Good luck!
2ndLaw, my example was simplistic, I admit. If you have a stand of truly old trees in which you want to reduce competition, the risk of high-intensity fire, etc., reducing the stand basal area is a reasonable approach. With an age limit, however, you might not be able to reach the optimum basal area if you can’t remove some of the competing trees because of their age. Granted, this may not be a problem in some stands, but why limit the options unnecessarily?
Basal area targets are not a useful indicator of fuel hazard.
150 year old trees are generally not a fuel hazard, especially after younger trees are removed.
Diameter limits are useful for a variety of reasons:
1) They help prevent conflicting objectives between economics and ecological restoration.
2) They help build public trust.
3) They help increase agency flexibility and discretion – the agency gets more freedom to be creative with trees smaller than the diameter limit.
In truth, diameters limits are a “dumbing-down of science”, used to more quickly explain many other highly inter-related and complex topics. They are saying, generally, that the bigger tree is the older tree, and we all should know that is only partly true. It seems that 2ndLaw is against Agency discretion, as well as “slippery slopes”.
Speaking of slippery, basal area is also a measure to the available water from precipitation. Many acres in eastern Oregon just have too many trees “taking up basal area” and all competing for less and less available water.
Finally, what harm is there in cutting one or two larger trees (growing too close to better trees), per 5 acres, throughout crowded P. Pine stands? Look at some of the thinning going on northeast of Chiloquin. They have been doing a lot of thinning, and there isn’t a lot of those situations, in every unit, so the fear of economic “enticement” just isn’t there. It would be a “pick and pluck” situation, and not a widespread practice. In fact, entire units could be exempted from cutting larger trees, when the silviculturalist decides there isn’t enough oversize trees. Or when the Wildlife Biologist wants bigger trees. It needs to fit the land!
If the land owner’s goals include maintaining forest health and sustaining an even flow of commodities, diameter limits are the antithesis of professional forest management. If the land owner’s goal is growing big old trees (USFS lands under Northwest Forest Plan), diameter limits are the way to go.
Mac, basal area management is the way to go if the agency wants to grow big, old trees — or simply work toward better forest health over all, regardless of stem size.
For those who do not understand what basal area is, it is a measure of how much ground is covered by tree trunks. Basal area measurement style tend to bring in the larger trees that are farther away. Most people who eyeball basal area, don’t often see that largest tree, which is in the plot but, very far away, relatively speaking. Good timber markers have a good eye for how much needs to be left, and what should really be cut, for forest health and vigor, as well as wildfire resilience.
Desired basal areas should match the site’s precipitation trends. When the basal area is too high, the entire stand becomes stressed for both water and light. Sometimes marking prescription will offer a “triangular spacing” number, which helps when “thinning from below”. A LOT of this is done in the Sierra Nevada, where we have had diameter limits since 1993.
The Northwest Forest Plan does not have diameter limits. The NWFP relies more on reserves.
Diameter limit are used successfully on the eastside of the Cascades though.
I will assume that your reference to “professional forest management” means “tree farmer” as opposed to “ecosystem manager.” The profession and practice on public lands could use a lot of re-direction and re-education.
Don’t confuse “tree health” with “forest health.” A stand of vigorous trees is a tree farm, while a healthy forest contains agents of mortality and numerous dead and dying trees.
Some people always assume that the Forest Service seeks to manage every single acre as a tree farm. It simply isn’t true, especially when there are diverse habitats, already throughout eastern Oregon. No one is seeking to make it all into tree farms. I see it more like a sculpting of big blocks of marble, with all of its flaws, into functioning ecosystem art. Again, those few oversized trees that should be cut would only be within the units. There are many ways to keep and encourage diversity in well-managed forests. Maybe try questioning projects, with actual conditions and their site specific silvicultural prescriptions, instead of blanket rigid one-size-fits-all mandates.
Here is southern Oregon it doesn’t take a tree very long to grow to be 30″. I think in makes as much sense to limit timber harvest to trees only over 30″ inches as it does to limit harvest to only trees under 30″, maybe more. Limiting the harvest of trees by diameter just makes us worst forest managers. It also limites the economic viability of all forest harvesting and the economic impact it has on the local communities. One large diameter tree laying along the roadside can have a position economic impact if harvested by small local timber interests. Usually you will fine that these trees have many cousins on the hillside. Often these trees are currenty removed for placement in streams for fish habitat, or for firewood. Some should be allowed to be harvested to be made into high value wood products to create value for society.
Anyone who has been near a recent wildfire in our National Forests will see hundreds of thousands of dead large diameter trees. As anyone who has spent time in the forests knows trees are always dying. It only makes sense to harvest some of them.
Seem like everytime someone comes up with a plan to harvest timber from our federal lands it has to include more wilderness areas. I think we have enough reserves, probably over 70% of our westside forests. It is obviously time to rethink our current NWFP and realize we need to harvest trees to have healthy forests and a healthy society.
I have also seen what setting quotas does. The result is often an agency rushing around with limited staff to put together the largest timber sale they can to meet their quota, while bypassing oportunities for other more valuable smaller projects.
One other thing, I have read on these pages how we need more surveys of our forest lands.
Seems to me that most of our federal land agencies are full of biologists. I am sure there are at least 5 biologist for every timber worker in the FS and BLM. What have the biologists been doing for that last 20 years? I remember before we started a sale on the Biscuit fire salvage I was having a meeting on site with the one timber sale administrator while there were five biologist and archeologists looking over the ground.